Narrative Instinct: Marketing Fundamentals 5 of 7

Hey, Liam here!

The fourth framework, Narrative Instinct, tells us that humans use stories to make sense of the world.

"We experience our day-to-day lives in story mode. The brain creates a world for us to live in and populates it with allies and villains. It turns the chaos and bleakness of reality into a simple, hopeful tale, and at the centre it places its star – wonderful, precious me." Will Storr

Now, I promised myself I'd no longer make assumptions (see Relativity), but I'm gonna break that promise and make one here:

You're already sold on the importance of stories.

Narrative comes into play after you've attracted a prospect's attention. It's the sales page and presentation deck. It's the part of the message that transforms a person from stranger to friend to customer (as Seth Godin would put it).

The story thread runs through

Many of the enquiries I receive are from consultants asking me to help them build 'their story.'

But if storytelling is an innate human ability, why would anyone need help building one?

Because story has been a buzzword for a few years now.

And most of the advice surrounding it is poor.

LinkedIn and Twitter are full of ‘story porn.’

How helpful is it to break down the impact of Steve Jobs’ storytelling prowess?

Carousels on the genius behind Toy Story and Creativity Inc. regularly go viral, accompanied by the promotion of a $99 Notion template sharing the great story playbooks used by Disney and Warner Bros.

Which, for the likes of you and me, are utterly useless.

Because you’re not selling a story

These production houses are built on selling stories, but that's not our purpose.

We're telling stories to sell ideas.

And whilst Steve Jobs was selling an idea, he was also adored by millions of people when he pitched the iPod. When he spoke, people unquestionably listened.

Unless you have thousands of people waiting to hear what you’ll say next, the ‘Steve Jobs Story Template’ has limited benefits.

You don't have the luxury of a large, unquestionably captive audience

But whilst these frameworks aren't entirely helpful, the fact remains - stories do resonate.

So, how do you make stories work for your business?

You don’t build a story to sell - you build a story that sells.

According to The Principle of Least Effort, we already know that we need to make your story easy to follow.

Luckily, there’s a clear path to that.

Simple sales stories share a collection of basic ingredients. Let’s start with the first:

One Idea

Dollar Shave Club had 'Shave time, Shave money.'

Apple had ‘1000 songs in your pocket.'

Every persuasive story has one central idea at its core.

This big idea also represents the desirable contrast that differentiates you from other options.

Dollar Shave Club would provide cheaper blades than mass-market brands like Gillette and deliver them straight to your door.

The iPod would carry more songs than other MP3s.

For a consulting firm, that idea could focus on something like:

  • A contrarian approach
  • A unique guarantee
  • An unusual delivery

For example, the big idea for my core offer- which I haven't discussed in this series- focuses on delivery: I help consulting firms articulate what they excel at visually.

One big Idea

Now, I used an example above from Apple, but we need to remember this big difference between our business and theirs - they sell products to everyone.

We don't.

Which is why you need to find your very own Frodo Baggins

The hero is the decision maker in your story.

The one person you're trying to connect with.

For example, you’re selling UX design to consumer brands moving into Blockchain. Your ‘who’ is the Head of Brand overseeing their Web3 launch.

Pin that on the wall because everything centres on this person. As we build out the story, our goal is for that person to see their own fears and dreams reflected back at them.

A Hero

On the subject of dreams…

You deliver a transformation your client is looking for. And as with the big idea, we’re pinning this story on that one transformation for simplicity (rather than a multitude of benefits).

What keeps your customer awake at night and overlaps with your offer?

This is entirely dependent on your circumstances, but it could look something like:

  • They want the next round of investment
  • They want to achieve 10% growth this year
  • They want to sell their business
A Desired Outcome

Last but not least, here’s the final ingredients of your story:

The Event and the Monster

It’s when Mufasa is killed (the event) by Scar (the monster).

It’s when Katniss volunteers as tribute (the event) to enter the Hunger Games (the monster).

It’s when Neo discovers that the world he knows is a simulated reality (the event) during his interrogation by Agent Smith (the monster).

Every story has an unexpected event that sets off a sequence in motion. Without it, there is no story.

And, for our structure, that event is accompanied by an inanimate Monster threatening to block our hero’s dream outcome.

An event and monster

Your situation could look something like this:

  • They received the last round of investment (the event), and now they need to overcome the monster (insufficient user growth).
  • They launched in a new market (the event), and now they must overcome the monster (nobody in the new market knows who they are).
  • They turned 60 (the event), and now they want to overcome the monster (they want to sell their business and retire, but they don't know how).

Every high-ticket consulting firm deals with monsters and events. Without them, a problem or goal is simply something that prospects will figure out in-house (or through a cheap contractor).

These story ingredients then feed neatly into a story statement that looks like this:

I want to share how [hero] can [achieve desirable outcome] through [big idea].

I’ve got plenty more material that gets into the fine details of building a story.

I’ll share that with you after this series. But first…

Notice how all these frameworks are interconnected?

They’re all cogs in your entire system, feeding into one another.

The cogs in this framework system start to come together

Next up, I’ll share the last framework.

Because there’s one piece of the puzzle missing, and without it, the system collapses - Subconscious Calculations

Want to become a thought leader?

Every 4 weeks, I publish deep dives into B2B thought leaders, breaking down the content strategy they used to go from unknown consultant to top tier personality.

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